Mallinder wants Saints revenge on Saracens

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder challenged his players to get their revenge on Saracens next Sunday after seeing his team secure a home semi-final in the play-offs with a convincing 31-7 win over London Irish.

There is no love lost between Saints and Sarries, who angered Mallinder’s squad with some over-the-top celebrations in the dressing room following a win at Franklin’s Gardens last month.

Mallinder will now use that incident as motivation as Northampton look to clinch a place in the Guinness Premiership final against either Leicester or Bath.

“That hurt, hearing them singing as if they’d won the league,” said Mallinder, whose team has played Saracens four times this season, twice in the league and twice in the LV= Cup.

“For us, you can take motivation from a lot of things and we’re eagerly looking forward to that game now.

“We’ve had some close games against them this season. They are playing well – and played very well when they came to our place. And they’ve just won at Welford Road against Leicester today. It’ll be an almighty battle but we think we have a side to win that game.”

Northampton bounced back from two successive defeats to overrun Irish at the Madejski Stadium, centre Jon Clarke grabbing a brace of tries and winger Chris Ashton scoring another.

Fly-half Stephen Myler kicked the rest of the points for Saints, who finished the regular season in second place, and the win will give them some much-needed momentum ahead of the semi-final.

“I’m pleased,” Mallinder said. “We wanted a professional performance and for large parts of the game, we dominated. We were very solid, got some good turnovers, the scrum was good, we were fairly patient, played in the right areas of the field and we know we are a side who can score tries.”

England full-back Ben Foden was helped off in the 67th minute after spraining an ankle that had been troubling him in the build-up to the match. Strapping was immediately applied to Foden’s ankle and Mallinder hopes to have the number 15 available next weekend.

“He’s got it iced and fingers crossed he can play next week,” Mallinder said. “I think he’s re-sprained it and he’s staying positive.”

It was hardly the ideal send-off for Irish’s Mike Catt, the 2003 World Cup-winning centre who was playing in his last match before retiring to concentrate solely on coaching. The 38-year-old came off the bench to warm applause from both sets of fans and played the final 13 minutes, even jokingly being given the man-of-the-match award. It brings to an end a glorious career for Catt, who played 75 times for England.

“You can’t base your career on one game,” he said. “I was always going to get around 10 minutes. To be fair, I just wanted one. It won’t set in for a while but I felt very comfortable out there, even though I haven’t played for a few months. I still felt like I had the drive to do it.”

Danie Coetzee’s try, converted by Tom Homer, was the only bright spot on a gloomy afternoon for Irish, who ended the season sixth.

Irish head coach Toby Booth: said: I’m very disappointed. Sometimes you have to hold your hand up and say you were beaten by a better side.”

With thanks to Guinness Premiership

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